Not only that Zadar is surrounded by beautiful sea and nature, this ancient Mediterranean city is like an open air museum displaying remains of different cultures and people that, through time, left their trace in city’s appearance and lifestyle.
Even though Zadar’s old town is situated on a small peninsula, there is lot of things that you can do for free, for example seeing remains of Roman Forum, listen to the Sea organ playing unique melody of the sea, watch Greeting to the Sun do its funky light show and swim in crystal clear sea.
However don’t spend a good amount of time wandering through the city, not knowing what will be the next thing to do, follow our guidelines to get to know Zadar by doing this 7 budget-friendly things that will enrich your vacation in Zadar.
1. Climb cathedral’s bell tower
Bell tower of Zadar’s cathedral is 42 m high and fun fact is that it was build in 2 different periods. Ground and 1st floor were made in the 2nd half of 15th century and it was finished some 400 years after according to the ideal concept of an English architect Thomas G. Jackson, most recognized by its work at Oxford university. If you visit bell tower, you will find out more about its intriguing history explained by info panels on the walls, however this is not the only reason why you should visit. The best thing is waiting on the top – you will be amazed by the view of the entire Zadar old town, its wider area, sea and scattered islands across the channel. Entrance ticket is just 2,00 Eur per person.
2. Admire Gold and Silver of Zadar
Permanent exhibition of sacral art or popularly called Gold and Silver of Zadar can be found within the complex of a female Benedictine monastery of St. Mary. This exhibition is among the most valuable exhibitions in Croatia, showing wealthy legacy that has emerged over the years in Zadar, capital of Dalmatia region. The oldest exhibit is a pectoral cross from 8th century. Besides, this collection contains various art from 8th until 18th century like sacral art, chalices, crosses, sculptures and paintings from former churches in Zadar, artworks of prominent painters like Vittore Carpaccio and Jacopo Palma Giovane, as well as handmade embroidery and shiny silver reliquaries encrusted with gem stones containing fragments of the Holly Cross, popes, saints, Innocent children ect. Last but not least, is a beautiful crown from 14th century that belonged to one Croatian-Hungarian queen. Entrance ticket is 5,00 EUR.
3. Ride in a row boat
In the old town, in marina, search for a row boat sign and hop in a wooden boat to enjoy short boat ride to get across the sea to the opposite side of the marina. Boatmen in Zadar are called “Barkajoli” and for 8 centuries they have been transporting citizens from peninsula to the mainland, that way shortening the 5,00 km long walk around the coastline, regardless the weather conditions. This tradition is being passed from father to son, from one generation to the other. Have in mind that there is no schedule, the boatman will approach you as soon as he sees you standing at the dock waiting. Zadar’s boatmen are being super friendly, they will help you to get in the boat.
On the mainland you can take a nice walk along the seaside, sit in café bar and sip delicious coffee.
The price for a boat ride in one direction is 5,00 kn, that is less than 1,00 Eur.
4. Enter marvelous church of St. Donatus
St. Donatus is an amazing church dating from the beginning of 9th century and it is the largest pre-Romanesque structure in Croatia. It looks quite unusual from the outside due to its imposing size and uncommon circular shape but its interior is quite interesting too. The church has double interior divided into the ground floor and gallery. On the ground floor you can see elements of a Roman architecture like columns and original pavement from the Roman Forum, on which this church was constructed. You can even climb to the gallery and admire remains of an ancient Roman Forum from the height and see doors that connected this church with archbishop’s palace. You can try to figure out where is the entrance to the secret underground room that served as a hideout or a treasury.
This church had several altars, unfortunately it was desacralized long time ago and non were preserved until today, therefore its interior may seem bare at the first glace, but don’t be mistaken, the church stands here for a 1000 years and hides many secrets that are still being subject of many historical researches. Due to its superb acoustic interior in the church of St. Donatus are being held Musical evenings for 60 years now. Entrance ticket is 2,00 Eur.
5. Learn about the glassblowing in the Museum of Ancient glass
Museum of Ancient glass is one of a kind cultural institution not only in Croatia but in the world. This is specialized archeological museum with a unique collection of about 5.000 different glass objects from antiquity that were found in Zadar, dating from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD. Before opening the museum, this valuable antique glass collection has been presented at numerous international exhibitions in Rome, Venice, Lisbon and other cities. Great addition to the museum is a glassmaking workshop in which you can see live demonstration of a glass blowing technique. In museum’s gift shop you can buy amazing hand-made glass jewelry, vases or plates.
Price for an entrance ticket is 4,00 Eur.
6. Taste Maraschino
Maraschino is Zadar’s traditional liquor made by secret recipe from the specific type of cherries called Marasca cherries. This is a small slightly sour fruit that grows wild along Zadar region. Pharmacists of the Zadar’s Dominican monastery noted down the 1st recipe for this herbal liquor at the beginning of the 16th Century and at that time this aromatic drink was medical potion. Through time the original recipe was gradually changed and perfected. In 18th century Maraschino as a prestigious drink became world famous, present in all reigning European courts. It was respected and enjoyed by the British king George IV and the queen Victoria, the French kings Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe, the Russian tsar Nikola I, Napoleon Bonaparte, marshal Marmont, the great seducer Giaccomo Casanova, film director Alfred Hitchcock, writers and artists Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Charles Baudelaire, Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin and many others.
Therefore, once in Zadar do not miss the chance to taste this noble liquor and travel back in time while enjoying its unique aroma. You can find Maraschino in almost every bar in Zadar (price about 3,00 Eur) or end your day watching Zadar’s sunset and sipping delicious cocktails with Maraschino (7,00 Eur).
7. Visit Duke’s palace
Once in Zadar you must visit Duke’s palace, it is renovated historical complex that unites museum, concert hall, exhibition hall and multi media center in one. The palace itself is of exceptional value for citizens of Zadar. It was first mentioned in 13th century and in its hall were held city councils, and throughout period of the Venetian Republic rule this palace was duke’s residence.
Today you can visit its exhibition hall and admire beautiful paintings of local artists or artworks of famous artists like Andy Warhol, Chagall or even Dali, depending which exhibition is actual at the moment of your visit.
You can even watch movies or attend one of the classical music concerts organized by Zadar Concert office that are being held in the concert hall. Live like locals do, check the events program at the link here. The entrance ticket is 3,00 Eur.